Rx for Long-distance Access to Health Care

Every Monday, Amanda Gosman, MD, a pediatric plastic surgeon, treats patients in San Diego, where she lives, and in Guatemala, more than 2,000 miles away.

The 1999 graduate of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine is able to bridge the miles with ConnectMed International, a nonprofit organization she founded in 2010 to bring quality health care to poor countries. ConnectMed, which addresses all-too-common problems, such as cleft lip, has projects in Mexico, India and Guatemala.

"We're striving to give underserved areas access to the gold standard of international care," says Gosman, director of pediatric plastic surgery at the University of California at San Diego. She first learned about telemedicine when she spent a year working at rural health clinics in Guatemala and Ecuador between her third and fourth years in medical school.

The technology has allowed Gosman to work with patients like a Guatemalan boy who suffered from crippling burns that left him without the use of his arms. "It was a simple surgery, but it wasn't a simple follow-up," Gosman says. "With appropriate, multidisciplinary care, we were able to start a relationship."

Telemedicine is not without limitations. For one, high-speed Internet connections are needed to broadcast high-quality video, and they're scarce in rural areas. Firewalls can also be a problem, and Gosman is no stranger to sudden power outages.

But the technology offers a promising solution to health disparities, she says. The next frontier is using 4G connections to broadcast video in remote areas. "I've been to places in Africa that don't even have electricity, and I'm able to get cell phone access," she says. "These are the same areas where need is greatest."